Substance Abuse in College: The Most Commonly Abused Substances by College Students
Attending college is a great way to experience personal freedom and learn a great deal. Unfortunately, some of the “new things” people learn about are different substances that can do more harm than good, and college is a perfect environment for substance abuse and addiction to develop.
Below are a few of the most common substances to be aware of that have found their way onto virtually all college campuses over the years and just refused to drop out.
A lot of students drink to have a fun time and unwind, but make no mistake — alcohol is a depressant and a highly addictive substance. There are many reasons college students might start using it: it’s legal for them to buy for the first time, it’s glorified in TV & movies, and it’s so common that they might just want to fit in.
The problems stack up pretty quickly, however, when you don’t pay attention to your drinking. Peer pressure to play drinking games can make you lose track of your consumption. Opening a bar tab lets you forget about the cost. Frat culture often connects alcohol to dangerous behavior without a second thought. All of these things can lead to alcohol addiction and disruption of the college experience.
Marijuana has a reputation for helping to “take the edge off,” and for stressed college students, that might be what they want at the end of a hard day — or midday class. However, studies have shown that smoking weed can increase anxiety symptoms in some users.
Smoking weed can also be tempting because it can give people a shared interest in a new environment such as college, where it can be hard to stake out a niche. While marijuana is not supposed to be chemically addictive, overuse can still lead to dependency for many people.
It may come as a surprise, but upwards of 25% of college students have at least tried cocaine. Despite the sometimes-high costs of cocaine, its reputation for delivering a powerful rush and confidence boost has helped it become a dangerous mainstay in college house parties and nightclubs alike.
What makes cocaine especially dangerous is that all too often, it can be laced or cut with other drugs so the dealer can save their stock, and you have no way to verify its “purity.” It’s a hard drug made even harder in this way, and this dramatically increases the risk of overdose.
The biggest player in the “study drug” world is Adderall, a stimulant meant to increase focus for people with ADHD. But in college, the pressure of schoolwork and distractions of college life can cause students to seek out a “cheat code” to help them focus.
Adderall can be addictive, and the rush can also lead to irresponsible behavior: after all, Adderall is a type of amphetamine, in the same class as meth. Any “boost in productivity” someone might achieve is ultimately a short-term gain that isn’t worth the dependency or withdrawal.
As raves have grown in popularity and college students have sought out “alternative” party experiences, drugs like MDMA, ketamine, and LSD have made their way into the mainstream. Typically, party drugs are hallucinogens that have a way of making you act unsafely as you respond to hallucinations, and many also come with dangerous side effects like dramatic dehydration.
A huge issue with these drugs is that you have no way to verify where they’re coming from. They can be laced with other “harder” drugs and cause you to trip in ways you wouldn’t expect — or overdose.
Opioids & Prescription Painkillers
There’s an ongoing prescription painkiller epidemic in this country, with drugs like OxyContin leading to heroin — but on college campuses, codeine is another common opioid. It’s often prescribed as a cold medicine, and sometimes shows up in parties as a drink called “lean” or “purple drank,” which is essentially cough syrup mixed with soda pop.
The tolerance-building nature of opioids is part of what’s made their abuse an epidemic, and it appears to tragically often start with younger people who don’t know what they’re getting into.
The Bigger Picture on Collegiate Substance Abuse
If you’re in college and begin using these substances without knowing their harsh, addictive realities, they can take you away from what’s really important in your life: school, family, friends, and your future. Your school might have some on-campus resources, but addiction typically requires professional help.
The River Source uses holistic and evidence-based therapies to set you up for success in your health and in your future, and we have a wealth of experience working with younger clients whose casual use has escalated. With us, you’ll learn tools and techniques that will help you find focus and balance as you plan out a life of healthy sobriety. For more information, give The River Source a free, confidential call at (866) 370-6015.